Instructional Practices for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Lessons for K–12 Students With Disabilities: Perceptions of Teachers From a Virginia Suburban School Division

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Virginia Tech


This study identified key instructional practices for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) lessons for students with disabilities (SWD) based on the perceptions of teachers. Barriers to STEM lessons for SWD were identified, as well as the professional development desired by teachers. SWD can benefit from participation in STEM lessons. STEM is an acronym that is often defined as an interdisciplinary approach to learning by incorporating at least two of the disciplines with real-world applications through problem-solving projects. STEM lessons can offer opportunities for K–12 students to engage in 21st-century skills and the 5 C's (citizenship, collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking), which are skills that are desired for college and career readiness and for competition in a global economy. This basic qualitative study consisted of 13 interviews (5 elementary, 4 middle, and 4 high school) with teachers from 12 schools. Results were analyzed using deductive coding to identify instructional practices, barriers, and recommended professional development. Findings suggest that knowledge of the SWD, building relationships, use of support staff and others, intentional grouping, assigned group roles, hands-on learning, and classroom modifications helped SWD gain access to STEM lessons. In addition, student ability level, lack of adult support, and time limitations were identified as barriers for SWD's participation in STEM lessons. Finally, teachers believe that professional development is needed in teacher collaboration and student disability knowledge. Teachers want the opportunity to work together during STEM lesson development and also during implementation of STEM lessons. Teachers also want to learn more about specific strategies for each disability category. The information gained should support teachers and school leaders with inclusivity of SWD in STEM lessons.



STEM Education, Students with Disabilities, access, barriers, instructional practices, Career development